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The Boys Are Coming Home


World War I caused changes throughout the world. When the war broke out in Europe, North Dakotans were very reluctant for America to get involved. Many of the state’s citizens were isolationists, and the large number of German immigrants may have been a factor. Or North Dakotans may have had clear memories of sending troops to the Philippines only twenty years before. They knew the hardships that war would cause, from shortages of goods to shortages of agricultural labor.

But when the government called for troops, North Dakota responded. After serving on the Mexican border in 1916, North Dakota troops had been deactivated, but that soon changed, with the First and Second North Dakota Regiments drafted into federal service in March, 1917. They were reorganized into the 164th Infantry Regiment and became part of the 41st Division. North Dakota soldiers were involved in many well-known battles including Cantigny and the Meuse-Argonnes Offensive.

On this date in 1919, the Fargo Forum announced that plans were being made to bring the boys home. The newspaper predicted that 1,800,000 troops would return within six months. It was an enormous undertaking. German ocean liners were being commandeered to help transport the troops.

Chief of Staff Peyton March said men in home training camps would be demobilized within twenty days, but it would take longer to get the troops home from Europe. March estimated that 300,000 troops per month could be transported back to the United States. He explained that an army of occupation, composed of experienced troops, would be the last to return home. The War Department said their length of stay would depend on decisions reached during the upcoming peace conference. This meant those stationed in France would be the first to return, while those in Germany would remain in Europe for the foreseeable future.

North Dakota troops, however, did not have to wait long. They returned within the month, and were deactivated on February 28th, at Camp Dix, New Jersey.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


National Guard North Dakota. "http://www.ndguard.ngb.army.mil/history/historyhighlights/Pages/default.aspx" http://www.ndguard.ngb.army.mil/history/historyhighlights/Pages/default.aspx Accessed 1/3/16

State Historical Society of North Dakota "http://www.history.nd.gov/nhdinnd/turningpoints/WWIinND.html" http://www.history.nd.gov/nhdinnd/turningpoints/WWIinND.html Accessed 1/3/16

Fargo Forum. “Yankees Home in Six Months.” 28 January, 1919